Cherry picking (basketball)

For the fallacy see: Cherry picking (fallacy)

Cherry picking is a strategic act sometimes used in basketball to give a team a higher scoring chance.[1] A player who performs this act is known as a cherry picker. It is sometimes frowned upon, and in some cases it is considered "cheating", even though there is usually not a rule against it. The purpose in this is to create a likely easy scoring opportunity when the defensive team obtains the ball from the offensive team via defensive rebound, steal, or other turnover. Supposedly when a teammate of the cherry picker obtains the ball, he or she should then make a long pass or heave to the cherry picker who will likely make an easy two point basket (usually a layup or dunk).



Cherry picking itself is typically legal in most forms of official organized league basketball, even though it is not used that often. Sometimes, in recreational or amateur basketball, rules will be employed outlawing cherry picking. Cherry picking in rules is defined as a defensive player being on his or her offensive half of the court when the opposing team is in possession of the ball.[2] Usually that rule is that any points scored by a cherry picker as a result of cherry picking are disallowed and the opposing team gets possession of the ball.


There are two main methods of cherry picking. The first is the "camping out" method. In the "camping out" method, a player does not play defense and "camps out" on his or her offensive. The cherry picker waits for a teammate to obtain the ball and then heave it to him or her for a very high percentage shot due to being a fast break.

The second is the "bolting" or "breaking" method. [3] In the "bolting" or "breaking" method, a defensive player "bolts" or "breaks" down the court as soon as the offensive team shoots the ball towards the basket. This is done mostly on jump shots, as it allows sufficient time to run while the ball is in the air. If and when the cherry picker's team retrieves the ball on defense, the teammate will throw the ball to the cherry picker who is usually running while making the catch, who then will usually make the easy basket.


Cherry picking is very controversial to some players, coaches and spectators. It is sometimes considered to be a violation of an unwritten rule. A cherry picker may become unpopular among teammates, opponents, and fans.[4]

Teammates may not throw the ball to would-be cherry pickers to show what they consider to be proper sportsmanship. Additionally, teammates may not throw the ball to a cherry picker because they feel that he does not "deserve" to get the ball because he is "slacking", being lazy, and not playing defense.

Opposing players may resent the cherry picking player. Fans may also dislike cherry picking players, if they subscribe to this point of view as being an unwritten rule, similar to the unwritten rule of not running up the score needlessly in the closing moments of a game.

Coaches on some official league teams may bench a player who attempts to cherry pick, or may kick him or her off the team. Such coaches also do not accept cherry picking, and likewise consider it to be refraining from defense, and lazy and slacking play.

However, in other official leagues, it is considered just one more legal play in intense competition. In basketball, cherry picking cannot be successfully executed by a single player, as can be seen from the definition of the play. Someone must agree to make an outlet pass to the cherry picker, for the strategy to be effectual.

The argument that a cherry picker is not playing defense can be countered by the fact that a cherry picker must be defended by the opposite team, or it risks having the play be successfully run. Hence it provides defensive assistance to teammates of the cherry picker at the other end by removing one of the opponent's players from the cherry picker's team's backcourt. However, it can also be utilized as an excuse by a player to avoid having to run baseline to baseline. To be meaningful, a cherry picking play must be a part of the team's repertoire, not just a single player play, similar to a slam dunk.

Similarly, where the play is not against the rules, anyone arguing, fighting or brawling over the play would be considered examples of poor sportsmanship, as a reaction to being outplayed and possible embarrassed by the cherry picker. To object to this in a league where it is legal would often be considered as anachronistic as objecting to the use of a zone defense as being "lazy" or "unfair" just because it was once illegal.

Although it is impossible for player to unilaterally score as a cherry picker, it can, and sometimes does, provide a convenient excuse for a player too lazy to run downcourt to play defense. It is likely that this pseudo-cherry picking is what gives rise to the belief that it is an act of laziness, "slacking", and/or not playing defense.

But when properly executed, cherry picking provides an exciting demonstration of timing, teamwork and athleticism, all of which can, and often does, give rise to excitement and appreciation by all in attendance, with the possible exception of the team which fails to defend against this play. But even then, with closely matched teams, it is likely that cherry picking might be utilized successfully by both teams, and appreciated for what it is, as a difficult and precisely executed play adding yet another dimension of strategy to an exciting game between skilled teams.

Players, coaches and fans who are opposed to cherry picking would do well to gravitate towards leagues where such a play is outlawed, rather than bewailing its existence and proper execution in leagues where it is allowed. It is logically contradictory that players would object to a legal play on the grounds of "sportsmanship" by fighting or arguing about its use.

It is clear that cherry picking is controversial, but the basis of this controversy seems to be rooted in the fact that some individuals dislike being subjected to legal plays which they cannot execute, or which they choose not to execute. Additionally, as noted above, laziness on defense by failing to run downcourt can be "justified" as setting up for a cherry picking play, but absent a clearcut plan, and team cooperation, such actions are clearly distinguishable from a true cherry picking play.

The biggest controversy seems to arise from individuals and teams that do not know the rulebook, or do not like to abide by it when it is to their disadvantage to do so. Whether or not to have such a rule in league play seems to be a minor controversy, by comparison, and one easily resolved on a case by case basis by league officials.

Usage in other sports

Although cherry picking is most common in basketball, it is also sometimes used in other sports.

Water polo

Cherry picking is somewhat common in water polo, where it may also be referred to as "sea-gulling". Cherry picking in water polo uses a similar strategy as that of basketball where a swimmer of the defensive team hangs out on his or her offensive end and awaits a pass from his or her teammate once they get the ball back. This increases the likelihood of scoring for the cherry picking team.


Cherry picking is against the rules in soccer, where an offside rule prevents this. Interestingly, in indoor football in at least many European countries, there's a rule named "Man over the line" - a rule that prevents one (any) player of crossing the middle of the court, apparently this is to encourage more play in attack, and make it easier to score.

Ice hockey

Ice hockey also has an offside rule that prevents cherry picking, but there is still loafing which can cause breakaways if the loafer's opponent is unaware of it.


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Cherry picking — could refer to: Cherry picking (fallacy) Cherry picking (basketball) See also Cherry picker This disambiguation page lists articles associated with the same title. If an …   Wikipedia

  • Cherry picking (fallacy) — For the strategy in basketball, see cherry picking (basketball). For the device for raising a person to allow working at a height, see cherry picker. Cherry picking, suppressing evidence, or the fallacy of incomplete evidence is the act of… …   Wikipedia

  • Cherry picker — For the basketball strategy, see Cherry picking (basketball). For the historical British regiment, see 11th Hussars. Cherry picker reaching from pavement across front gardens to upstairs windows. A cherry picker (also known as a boom lift, man… …   Wikipedia

  • Basketball moves — are generally individual actions used by players in basketball to pass by defenders to gain access to the basket or to get a clean pass to a teammate. Contents 1 Dribbling 1.1 Crossover dribble 1.2 Between the legs …   Wikipedia

  • Basketball — This article is about the sport. For the ball used in the sport, see Basketball (ball). For other uses, see Basketball (disambiguation). Basketball …   Wikipedia

  • Basketball (ball) — A typical basketball. A basketball is a spherical inflated ball used in the game of basketball. Basketballs typically range in size from very small promotional items only a few inches in diameter to extra large balls nearly a foot in diameter… …   Wikipedia

  • Basketball court — The home court of the Minnesota Timberwolves of the National Basketball Association In basketball, the basketball court is the playing surface, consisting of a rectangular floor with tiles at either end. In professional or organized basketball,… …   Wikipedia

  • Glossary of basketball terms — Basketball, like any other major sport, has its own unique words and phrases used by sports journalists, players, and fans. Contents: Top · 0–9 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0–9 …   Wikipedia

  • Outline of basketball — See also: Index of basketball articles The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to basketball: Basketball – ball game and team sport in which two teams of five players try to score points by throwing or shooting a… …   Wikipedia

  • Variations of basketball — are games or activities based on, or similar to, the game of basketball, in which the player utilizes common basketball skills. Some are essentially identical to basketball, with only minor rules changes, while others are more distant and… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.